Southeastern News

Rep. Billy speaks at Native American graduation/reception

Rep. Billy speaks at Native American graduation/reception

DURANT, Okla. – Former Oklahoma Representative Lisa Billy was the guest speaker at Wednesday’s Native American Graduation Ceremony and Reception at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Also offering remarks at the event were Native American Institute executive director Dr. Bruce King, left, and Southeastern president Sean Burrage. President Burrage presented her a flute on behalf of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Southeastern sophomore lends voice to historical presidential visit

Elissa Hamil sings the national anthem prior to President Obama’s speech. (Photo courtesy of Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma)

Elissa Hamil sings the national anthem prior to President Obama’s speech.
(Photo courtesy of Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma)

DURANT, Okla. –Elissa Hamil doesn’t follow the start-at-the-bottom-and-work-your-way-up format.

The 19-year-old Southeastern Oklahoma State University sophomore was selected to sing the national anthem when president Barack Obama spoke at Durant High School on July 15. The President was in Durant to announce the establishment of ConnectHome, a new initiative with communities, the private sector, and federal government working to expand high speed broadband to more families across the country. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Southeastern, and Durant Public Schools will be among the groups partnering on the project.

Hamil, who is Choctaw, was asked to send a video to the White House and she was chosen through a competitive process. While she sang at home, her father used his cellphone to tape it.

She says she wasn’t nervous at the Presidential event, even though it was the first time she had performed the Star-Spangled Banner, at least publicly. Elissa learned the words to the anthem in kindergarten and has been in a choir since the sixth grade.

“I wouldn’t sing it in high school,” Elissa said. “There was too much pressure, singing in front of your peers.”

Peers, no – President of the United States – no problem.

Hamil said she was a little nervous while behind the stage, but everything went well when it was her turn in the spotlight.

“I learned that prayer goes a long way,” Hamil said. “When I went out to sing, I just sort of blacked out. I believe God took over and helped me through the

performance.”

She didn’t see the president prior to singing, since she was behind the stage and he went from a helicopter to the stage.

Hamil was an honors graduate at Durant High, where she was an All-District singer for four years.

She is now a member of Southeastern’s University Singers.

The biology major plans to become an optometrist and her studies require most of her time. She received the Southeastern Alumni Scholarship and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Higher Education Scholarship.

Elissa credits her parents – Kevin and Jamie — family and friends for supporting her throughout her DHS career and now her Southeastern career.

Southeastern to honor three Distinguished Alumni on Oct. 4

DURANT, Okla. – Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s Alumni Association will recognize three Distinguished Alumni as a part of Homecoming 2013 festivities.
This year’s honorees are Dr. Jim Barnes, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Assistant Chief Gary Batton, and Mr. Robert “Rob’’ Wells. They will be recognized at the Distinguished Awards Banquet on Friday, October 4, 5:30 p.m., in the Visual and Performing Arts Center.
Barnes   Barnes (’64) served as the Oklahoma State Poet Laureate for 2009-10. Of Choctaw and Welsh ancestry, he grew up in Summerfield, Oklahoma. His bachelor’s degree from Southeastern was in English and theatre. He earned his master’s degree (1965) and Ph.D. (1970) from the University of Arkansas.
Barnes  was a professor of comparative literature and writer-in-residence from 1970-2003 at Truman State University (Kirksville, Missouri), where he helped establish a strong poetry series at the  University’s  Press. Barnes still serves as poetry editor there.  He also helped create the T.S. Eliot Prize, one of the premier poetry prizes in the country.
After retirement from Truman State, he was a Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing and English at Brigham Young University from 2003-06.

His On Native Ground: Memoirs and Impressions (University of Oklahoma Press), now in its second edition, won The American Book Award in 1998. Among his many volumes of poetry, The Sawdust War garnered the Oklahoma Book Award in 1983.
His community service involves membership in many organizations, including the Associated Writing Programs, the National Association for Ethnic Studies, PEN American Center, and PEN Center USA West. He has sat on several National Endowment for the Arts committees.
garybattonfinal[2]Batton (’89) has served in a number of capacities with The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma since 1987. In 2007, he was named Assistant Chief under Chief Gregory Pyle.

In his 26 years with the Choctaw Nation, Batton  has continuously looked for ways to improve and expand services and has been an integral part of the Tribe’s growth and success. Numerous Choctaw Nation programs and services have been created and enhanced under his leadership, including the Diabetes Wellness Center, the Youth Advisory Board, Veterans’ Advocacy, and Choctaw University.

He helps support Chief Pyle’s initiatives of health, education and jobs by expanding and increasing the profitability of current businesses and adding new businesses. Overall, businesses have shown a 69% increase in profitability since his appointment in 2007 and Tribal services continue to grow and evolve.

In addition, Batton has represented the Choctaw Nation on numerous boards and committees, including the National Budget Committee for Indian Health Service, the National Health Service Corps National Advisory Council, and the Tribal Technical Advisory Committee for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. He currently serves on the Thunderbird Youth Academy Foundation Board, the Children’s Hospital Foundation Board of Advocates, the Choctaw Nation Chahta Foundation Board, and the Southeastern Oklahoma State University Foundation Board.
He received his bachelor’s degree in management from Southeastern with minors in computer science and accounting.
Wells  Wells (’71) is CEO of TAG Aviation Holding SA, located in Geneva, Switzerland, and is responsible for TAG’s six operating companies. TAG Aviation provides aircraft management, charter services, base level maintenance operations and other services for business aviation worldwide. The company also owns TAG Farnborough Airport in Europe and subsidiary companies in Hong Kong, Bahrain, Spain, and the UK. TAG’s business jet fleet currently numbers nearly 150 aircraft based on all continents, and of the company’s 1,100 employees, nearly 350 are professional pilots.

He joined TAG Aviation USA in 1999 as Base Manager at its Seattle, Washington, operation. In 2002, Wells  moved to  TAG Aviation SA as President and CEO,  responsible for the company’s European operations. He served in that role until 2007.

Wells  received his bachelor’s  degree in aviation from Southeastern and earned his master’s of business from Southern Methodist University.
A licensed pilot with more than 8,000 hours logged, he currently serves on the Board of the European Business Aviation Trade Association. He was previously Executive Vice President for Piedmont Hawthorne Holdings, Inc. (now Landmark Aviation), where he held various management positions for more than 22 years.

“Choctaw U’’ receives Exceptional Program Award from Association for Continuing Higher Education

Jack Hedrick, Dr. Aaron Adair, and Tana Sanders accept the award in recognition of the Choctaw U project.

Jack Hedrick, Dr. Aaron Adair, and Tana Sanders accept the award in recognition of the Choctaw U project.

DURANT, Okla. – Over the years, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Southeastern Oklahoma State University have teamed up on numerous projects for the benefit of students and the community.

One of the partnership’s latest efforts – Choctaw U – was recently awarded

the Exceptional Program Award (Credit) by the Association for Continuing Higher Education — Great Plains Region. The award was presented last week at the  Association’s Regional Conference at Kansas State University.

Attending the conference to accept the award from the Choctaw Nation were  Tana Sanders, Director of Learning and Development, and Jack Hedrick, Curriculum Designer and Instructor. Dr. Aaron Adair, Assistant Dean of Distance and Adult Education, represented Southeastern.

This unique program offers students the opportunity to earn credit hours at Southeastern while completing Choctaw U courses that are focused on leadership, communication, and business.

“Teaming up with Southeastern to meet our goals for the leadership and education programs of our employees is a giant step in succession planning for the Choctaw Nation,’’ said Chief Gregory E. Pyle.

“Choctaw U is a great example of successful partnership and collaboration,’’ said Southeastern president Larry Minks. “The Nation and University have combined resources to produce a truly unique educational experience that will benefit the participants and community for many years.’’

The purpose of Choctaw U is to grow knowledge and skills of all associates by instilling a deeper understanding of their purpose within the organization. The five levels of training within Choctaw U mirror that of a standard university.

Participants receive professional development training, build knowledge, and improve their skills to be more efficient and productive leaders. Choctaw U includes two series for development, the Leadership Series and the Continuing Education Series.

The official launch of Choctaw U was Jan. 26, 2012, with more than 100 people making the first year-long commitment to the project.  The participants attended the orientation at Choctaw Casino and Resort in Durant. During the meeting, participants learned how the program builds on Chief Pyle’s long-term vision of growing and sustaining the tribe. Choctaw U challenges this group of leaders to begin planning toward the next century of the Choctaw people.

In December 2012, 73 Choctaw Nation associates graduated from the program.

Southeastern celebrating Native November

Students participate in stickball during SE Live/Native American Visitation Day Wednesday at Southeastern.

LaDonna Brown of the Chickasaw Nation presents information during a professional development program as part of Native November activities at Southeastern.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DURANT, Okla. – Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s is celebrating Native November with a variety of events throughout the month.

The celebration opened Nov. 1 with  a performance of  “To Us It Wasn’t Code,” in the Fine Arts Little Theater.

The play, a collaboration between Southeastern and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, debuted last summer at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian as part of Choctaw Days.

The production covers the history of the World War II Choctaw Code Talkers and the vital role they played in the war.

On Saturday, Nov. 3, recipients of Native American Scholarships (Harvey and Parsons Scholars) were recognized at the Southeastern-Harding football game.

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, the Professional Development: Chickasaw Department of Homeland Affairs presented a professional development program in Russell 300. The presentation included  an overview of Chickasaw history, in particular, some recent discoveries in the tribal Homelands of current-day Mississippi.  The Chickasaw Nation Department of Homeland Affairs is responsible for consulting with federal agencies when they take actions that might cause impacts to sacred sites and culturally significant historic sites in the homeland states of Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi under the National Historic Preservation Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Native November activities continued on Wednesday, Nov. 7, with SE Live and Native American Student Visitation Day.

Other upcoming events include:

Nov. 17 – Chickasaw Cultural Center field trip to Sulphur (8:15 a.m.-3p.m.) Visit Traditional Village; see demonstration of the “Stomp Dance;” view 17-minute film “Behind the Scenes” on 40-foot by 60-foot screen; lunch at noon; Chikasha Poya Exhibit Hall tour; explore the CCC campus;  visit Honor Garden, Gallery and Gift Shop.

Nov. 26 – Mini-Choctaw Days on campus as Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will present dancing, artists and other cultural demonstrations.

 

Native American scholars were introduced at Saturday’s Southeastern-Harding football game. Front Row: Brenner Billy, Evan Staples, Clay Moore, Leslie Wesberry, Allyssa Rhoades, and Michael Noah. Second Row: Southeastern president Larry Minks, Hailey Cusher, Kirsten Ashby, Dakota Palmer, Caley Wesberry, Dr. Lisa Coleman (director of the Honors program), Mary Burgess, Rebecca Gordon, Lyndi Standefer-Scarberry (Honors program assistant), Jaren Richards, Leigh Ward, Brian Campbell (Chief Strategy and Development Officer for the Chickasaw Nation) and Chris Wesberry (director of the of the Native American Center for Student Success). Back Row: Erin McDaniel (student and Native American Center for Student Success), Jennifer Kemp (Native American Center for Student Success), Kristopher Ward, Chantelle Standefer (Native American Center for Student Success), Taylor Reeves, Dakota Estrada and Phil Ford.

Southeastern to celebrate Native November with variety of events

DURANT, Okla. – Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s Native November celebration opens with a performance of “To Us It Wasn’t Code.”

The play, a collaboration between Southeastern and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, debuted last summer at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian as part of Choctaw Days.

The production covers the history of the World War II Choctaw Code Talkers and the vital role they played in the war.

The event is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, in the Fine Arts Little Theater on campus.

Events are scheduled throughout the month and all are free and open to the public.

Nov. 3 – Recognition of Native American Scholarships (Harvey and Parsons Scholars) between the third and fourth quarters of the Southeastern-Harding football game.

Nov. 6 – Professional Development: Chickasaw Department of Homeland Affairs (2-4 p.m., Russell Building Room 300). The presentation will be an overview of Chickasaw history, in particular, some recent discoveries in the tribal Homelands of current day Mississippi.  The Chickasaw Nation Department of Homeland Affairs is responsible for consulting with federal agencies when they take actions that might cause impacts to sacred sites and culturally significant historic sites in the homeland states of Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi under the National Historic Preservation Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Nov. 7 – SE Live and Native American Student Visitation (9 a.m.-3 p.m. , Montgomery Auditorium). This is an event in which Native American students are invited to learn more about campus.

Nov. 17 – Chickasaw Cultural Center field trip to Sulphur (8:15 a.m.-3p.m.) Visit Traditional Village; see demonstration of the “Stomp Dance;” view 17-minute film “Behind the Scenes” on 40-foot by 60-foot screen; lunch at noon; Chikasha Poya Exhibit Hall tour; explore the CCC campus, visit Honor Garden, Gallery and Gift Shop.

Nov. 26 – Mini-Choctaw Days on campus as Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will present dancing, artists and other cultural demonstrations.

For more information, contact Chantelle Standefer, Academic Advisor for the Native American Excellence in Education program, at 580-745-2812, 580-745-2316 or cstandefer@SE.edu.

Southeastern ranks in top 10 nationally for producing Native American graduates

DURANT, Okla. – According to the latest rankings in Diverse Issues In Higher Education, Southeastern Oklahoma State University is among the top schools in the nation for producing Native American graduates. In the undergraduate category, Southeastern has nine different fields represented in the national top 10; in the graduate degree category, Southeastern has three programs recognized in the top 10. The University ranks number one in Occupational Safety & Health (undergraduate and graduate) and 10th in the nation in all disciplines combined (undergraduate).

“It is a great honor for us to be recognized nationally for our work with Native American students,” said Southeastern president Larry Minks. “What is most impressive to me is the number of different subject areas that are represented in the rankings. We have a number of programs in place, including the U.S. Department of Education grant that we received last year, to assist students. The Native American Center for Student Success continues to do an outstanding job as well. Finally, we are very appreciative to have tremendous support from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Chickasaw Nation. The partnerships that have been established with both nations make a tremendous difference in the lives of our students.”

Each year, the magazine publishes its top 100 rankings of minority graduates. The report is based on preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Education for the 2010-11 school year. Following are Southeastern’s national rankings, by field, in the top 100 degree producers list (Native American students) as released by Diverse Issues In Higher Education.

Undergraduate 1 — Engineering Technologies and Engineering Related Fields (Occupational Safety and Health) 2 — Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs 3 — Transportation and Materials Moving (Aviation) 4 — Education 4 — Psychology 5 — Parks, Recreation, Leisure and Fitness Studies 7 — Marketing 8 — Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies, and Humanities 9 — Biological and Biomedical Sciences 10 — All Disciplines Combined

Graduate 1 — Engineering (Occupational Safety & Health) 4 — Psychology (Clinical Mental Heath Counseling) 8 — Education 11 — All Disciplines Combined

Southeastern has a number of programs and initiatives in place to assist Native American students. Last year, the University received a $2 million federal grant to enhance the academic success of its Native American students. The five-year, $1,995,623 Title III grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education. Chris Wesberry, Native American Center for Student Success coordinator, was principal investigator for the project, and Tim Boatmun, Associate Dean for Academic Services, was co-principal investigator. Also assisting in writing the proposal was Paul Buntz, grant coordinator-writer.

The “Connect2Complete (C2C) Project” strives to bolster the retention rates and graduation rates of Native American students at Southeastern. Currently, approximately 30 percent of Southeastern’s enrollment is comprised of Native Americans.

Also, the Southeastern Native American Center for Student Success provides advisement and assistance in accessing external funding for Native American students. The center also houses staff from the Choctaw Nation Scholarship Advisement Program and the Chickasaw Nation Education Services and offers a College Success course for new freshmen.

The Center is home to the “Native American Excellence in Education” grant funded by the Office of Indian Education to assist with preparing future Native American educators.

Southeastern also offers a Native American Studies minor, Native American management option and four courses in Choctaw Language and Culture.

Each year, Southeastern partners with the Choctaw Nation to sponsor “Native American Visitation Day,” in which high school students experience the college setting.

Among other activities, the University hosts the Native American Symposium and Film Festival.

Southeastern, Choctaws, team up for theatrical performance in Washington, D.C.

DURANT, Okla. – Southeastern Oklahoma State University and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma have long been partners in innovative approaches to better living through education.

The partnership takes a new step next month when Southeastern and the Choctaw Nation will combine talents to present a play at the annual Choctaw Days event hosted by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., on June 20-23.

The production, with a working title of “It Wasn’t Code to Us,” will be presented on-stage at the Smithsonian’s renowned Rasmuson Theatre. The Choctaw Code Talkers pioneered the use of a native language as a military code. Also, the play will offer glimpses into Choctaw life such as stickball, basket-making and other issues as it follows a young Choctaw woman who learns about her heritage from an elder of the tribe.

The performance will be in dual narrative, featuring the truest form of the Choctaw language, and will be presented in a new ambitious style known as “theatrical collage.” In this format, actors on the stage will be accompanied by soundtracks, videos ,and montages, and will be acting opposite filmed actors.

Directing the play is Kathleen Hardgrove , Assistant Professor of Theatre, who is completing her fifth year as a member of the Southeastern faculty.

She used her degree to work as teacher, costume designer, actor and director in places such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York. Her theatre work has led her to every state in the continental U.S.

Southeastern’s Dr. Randy Prus, Professor and Chair of the Department of English, Humanities and Languages, is writing the content of the play.

Prus said, “The performance deals with the Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I, but the emphasis is on the Choctaw language and culture. Twahna Kemp-Finley, a Choctaw student studying English at Southeastern with a Writing Emphasis major, is a tribal member, yet doesn’t speak Choctaw except for a few words. From discussions with Twahna and Chantelle Sandefer, another collaborator, we realized that Choctaw language speakers are primarily of an earlier generation.The intention of Southeastern’s Choctaw Nation Language Program is to pass the language and culture on to the following generations.”

Standefer works in Southeastern’s Native American Advisement Center on campus and has been studying Choctaw culture and history.

Standefer and Kemp-Finley are heavily involved in the collaboration.

Prus added, “We thought to create a figure of a younger girl investigating parts of Choctaw culture and history, leading up to the Code Talkers of World War I. Both Twahna and Chantelle are very bright and energetic young women and the play is in part a symbolic distillation of their activity.”

With Choctaw students making up 30 percent of Southeastern’s enrollment, the University is an ideal partner of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma in this venture. Hardgrove, her students and the Theatre at SE Department are excited at the prospect of performing in the prestigious Rasmuson Theatre.

The June performance will place both Southeastern and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma directly in the national spotlight.

Choctaw Nation, Southeastern Oklahoma State University announce launch of Choctaw University

DURANT, Okla. – The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Learning & Development Department in partnership with Southeastern Oklahoma State University is proud to announce the launch of its newest endeavor, Choctaw University. The purpose of Choctaw University (Choctaw U) is to grow knowledge and skills of all associates by instilling a deeper understanding of their purpose within the organization. Participants will receive superior professional development training, build knowledge, and improve their skills to be more efficient and productive leaders. Choctaw U includes two series for development, the Leadership Series and the Continuing Education Series.

According to Susan Stockton, executive director of Human Resources for the Choctaw Nation, “Developing highly skilled, highly qualified workers is the goal of every organization. Choctaw University is about more than professional development…it’s about empowering our associates to advance and succeed in the organization while achieving the dream of higher education.”

The five levels of training within Choctaw U mirror that of a standard university. The official launch of Choctaw U was Jan. 26, 2012. More than 100 people have made the first year-long commitment to Choctaw U. The participants attended the orientation at Choctaw Casino and Resorts in Durant. During the meeting, participants learned how the program builds on Chief Greg Pyle’s long-term vision of growing and sustaining the tribe. Choctaw U challenges this group of leaders to begin planning towards the next century of the Choctaw people.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Southeastern Oklahoma State University have created a partnership with a goal to achieving college credit for the Leadership Series of Choctaw U. Courses included in this agreement include Leading Generational Diversity, Transformational Leadership, Managing People, Effective Coaching and Mentoring, Change Management, and Succession Planning.

“We are enabling our associates to grow into positions across our many business enterprises while helping them complete their college education,” says Tana Sanders, director of Learning and Development.

Article by Dennis Miles featured in “Chronicles of Oklahoma”

Dennis Miles

DURANT, Okla. – Dennis Miles, Technical Access and Public Services Librarian for the Henry G. Bennett Memorial Library at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, is a featured author in the Fall 2011 edition of the “Chronicles of Oklahoma.” This is the official publication of the Oklahoma Historical Society, and it features several scholarly articles on Oklahoma history in each issue.

Miles’ article – “Educate or We Perish; The Armstrong Academy’s History as Part of the Choctaw Educational System,” is an in-depth look at the Armstrong Academy, one of eight boarding schools established by the Choctaw Nation in the 1840s. Armstrong Academy was built to educate Choctaw boys.

The Choctaws of Mississippi placed a heavy emphasis on education. Chief Isaac Garvin, one of the principal chiefs after removal (from Mississippi to Oklahoma) said, “I say educate! Educate! Or we perish!”

In 1863, Armstrong Academy was named the capitol building of the Choctaw Nation. All legislation and other important duties were conducted at the Academy for the next 20 years. In 1883, the Choctaw Council voted to turn it back into a school for boys of the Choctaw Nation.

Miles became involved in 2005-06 when the “Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture” needed individuals to write articles on various aspects of Oklahoma history.

“I did some research on all of the Choctaw boarding schools for the Encyclopedia article,” Miles said. “I soon realized that nobody had ever written the entire history of Armstrong Academy. Some had written about the early years. I decided to cover the entire history of the school.

“It was a fun project. I enjoy doing research. The hard part is putting it all together in form to write. I sent my article to the Chronicles in August of 2010. It was accepted a month later and I made the final corrections last fall. It was published in the Fall 2011 issue.”

Miles spent many hours, using vacation time and Christmas breaks. He traveled to the University of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma History Center several times before completing his article.

According to the article, the early Choctaws used missionaries as instructors in the schools to educate and convert the students to Christianity. Students were taught the English language and other subjects with the idea that boys should attend school. There were separate schools for girls and boys.

The boys wore military uniforms in the latter years of the Academy and worked on school farms to learn about agriculture. The schools provided shelter, food, clothing and an education.

Armstrong Academy served as a hospital for Confederate soldiers curing the Civil War. There are also Confederate soldiers buried close to the academy. The Academy was destroyed by fire in 1920.

Only two of the original eight schools survived the Civil War and those two were also gone by 1900. The Choctaw Nation created new schools, such as Jones Academy, which was a school for boys founded in 1891.

It is now the lone remaining Choctaw school. Wheelock Academy, a boarding school for girls, was closed in 1955 and the girls were transferred to Jones Academy, making it a co-educational school. Wheelock is now a historical site, but no classes are taught at the school.

Miles said life wasn’t easy in the schools. Boys were separated from family and friends. It was a lonely and dedicated life.

Copies of the Chronicles of Oklahoma may be found in the Southeastern library and most libraries in Oklahoma are subscribers.